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Archive for November, 2013

Egypt appeal for female protesters set for Dec 7

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

Female members of the Muslim Brotherhood during their trial in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on November 27, 2013A court in the Egyptian city of Alexandria is to hear an appeal on December 7 from 14 Islamist women protesters sentenced to 11 years in jail, their lawyer said Saturday. Ayman Dali told AFP that an appeal by seven other girls, all under the age of 18 and part of the same case, will also be heard that day by a separate court for juveniles. On Wednesday, an Egyptian court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria sentenced the women who it said were members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement to 11 years in jail. The verdicts triggered an outcry from activists and rights groups, with some calling on Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour to pardon them.

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Carmakers rev up for return to Iran market

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

Iran's state-owned car manufacturer Iran Khodro unveils in Tehran on February 20, 2010 for the home market the Peugeot 207i, a locally built version of the French automobile firm's 207 modelMajor carmakers and parts suppliers showed up in Tehran on Saturday to assess the Iranian market's "considerable potential," just one week after Iran's historic nuclear agreement with world powers. The International Conference of the Automotive Industry, the first such event in Iran, has brought together more than 150 companies from around the globe, according to organisers. The key industry has been battered for more than a year by Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. Iran and world powers reached an interim deal last week in Geneva, with Tehran agreeing to partially roll back its nuclear work in exchange for limited sanctions relief, including measures imposed on the car industry.

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Riyadh as a world city

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

Saudis on Facebook on Twitter have been mocking House of Saud in the wake of the recent flooding that exposed the bad infrastructure of the city.  They put a contrast between an interview with Prince Salman in which he predicted in 1975 that by 1985 Riyadh would be a world city comparable to the largest world cities.  Contrast that with this video below

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Israeli assistance to Syrian rebels?

November 30th, 2013 Comments off
This front-page article in As-Safir talks about recent Israeli military assistance to Syrian rebels.  Surprised? 

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Tamikrest, “Imanin bis Zihoun” (Tuareg Rock Band from Mali)

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

Tamikrest is a Tuareg rock band from Mali who sing for peace and reconciliation in that troubled country. They also just played at the annual Sahel Music Festival in the desert.

Tamikrest plays Imanin bis Zihoun

Channel 4 News interviews Tamikrest on the Mali troubles:

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I can’t believe that Cambridge University Press would publish such a trashy Zionist book: Antisemitism and the American Far Left

November 30th, 2013 Comments off
As you know, I do read the production of Zionists in the media and academia, often times to relish their poverty of ideas and logic.  I also enjoy realizing that Zionist propaganda in the 21st century is as bad, crude, and vulgar as Ba`thist propaganda of the 20th century.  Take Stephen Norwood’s Anti-Semitism and the American Far Left published by Cambridge University Press.  The author maintains: “Of course, administrators consistently ignore situations when campus opponents of Israel create a hostile environment for Jewish students.”  (p. 239).  Of course, he does not tell us how and why this is related to “the far left” and he does not even bother to explain as for the evidence of his generalization about campuses across the US? He relies on “One student testified that her Islamic studies professor told her she was not “Semitic”.(p. 239).  He also claims (shame on Cambridge University Press if not for publishing the propaganda of this book at least for the stupidity between its covers) “many university administrators” adopted the “Bandung Conference” and he adds that the Bandung conference is anti-Semitic because Nasser and Sukarno excluded Israel from it. (p. 238).  I am not making this up.  He also faults the “New Left”–not to be confused with the “Far Left” of the book for undermining “public perception of the Holocaust as unique by accusing the United States of waging a genocidal war in Vietnam”.  So in order to preserve the uniqueness of the Holocaust, we should have maintained that the US was being merciful and kind in Vietnam?  Of course, like all Zionists he freely uses anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism interchangeably or he uses this expression: “virulent anti-Zionism laced with anti-Semitism” (p. 236).  I have one question for Cambridge University Press: would they publish a book that claims that Arab and Muslim students in the US suffer from a “hostile environment” due to the overwhelming Zionism of the country?  The guy is so lacking in basic knowledge and elementary education that he claims that “university courses on European, American, and Middle Eastern history have rarely addressed the issue of anti-Semitism, or even the Jewish experience”.  (p. 236).  I really would like to meet the professors who read this manuscript and recommended its publication.  

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UN refugee agency unveils Palestinian archive

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

A visitor looks at photographs displayed during an exhibition organised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and titled "The Long Journey", on display in in the Old City of Jerusalem, on November 28, 2013The UN agency for Palestinian refugees has unveiled a trove of pictures and film captured over more than 60 years chronicling the collective memory of those who fled or were forced into exile. Established in 1949 to help Palestinian refugees who lost their homes when the state of Israel was created a year earlier, UNRWA has digitised the archive and put it on display in east Jerusalem. Called "The Long Journey," a collection of the works has been on display at the Al-Ma'mal Centre in east Jerusalem since Thursday. "This project is important for the history of Palestine and Palestinians, in order to defend and preserve their identity," UNRWA commissioner general Filipo Grandi said at the launch of the exhibit.

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Four killed in clashes in Lebanon’s Tripoli

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

Sunni Muslim fighters stand with their weapons inside a building in Tripoli, northern LebanonBy Nazih Siddiq TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) – Four people were killed in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli on Saturday in exchanges of fire between neighborhoods which support rival sides in Syria's civil war, security and medical sources said. The dead – including a teenage schoolboy and a man in his 30s – were from the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district, whose residents overwhelmingly support the Sunni Muslim rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Thirty people, including five soldiers, were wounded in the shooting between gunmen in Bab al-Tabbaneh and the adjacent Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen, which supports the Alawite Syrian leader. Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim from Tripoli, held talks with the interior minister and other security officials in the Mediterranean city to discuss how to end the violence, which erupted despite the deployment of soldiers in both rival districts.

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When I wore the hijab: Power and the headscarf

November 30th, 2013 Comments off


I put on my daughter’s abaya, took a picture of myself, and used it as my profile picture on Twitter and Facebook. (Photo supplied: Abdullah Hamidaddin)

by Abdullah Hamidaddin, Al-Arabiya, November 30, 2013

The ‘hijab’ is a very complicated piece of cloth. Since its inception a few millennia ago it had carried with it many meanings. It was an expression of male dominance, an act of religious piety, a manifestation of female oppression, a limitation to a female’s power of seduction, an icon of cultural pride, a slogan of resistance to colonialism imperialism and globalization, an indicator of a worthy wife, an evasion of feminine competition, a marker of otherness and a discouragement to harassers. Different meanings constructed in different epochs for different social and political reasons by different actors with different motivations.

If anything, this makes it quite difficult to speak of the ‘hijab’ rather one ought to speak of ‘hijabs’ each using a ‘cloth’ but each assigning to it so many meanings that renders it impossible to make any generalization no matter how mild it may be. And every generalization I make here has multiple exceptions. Yet despite all those many differences there seems to be one constant about the hijab: it is about women and for women; only women. Men do not put on a hijab. They may cover their heads even their faces, but that is another thing. The hijab is not the cloth that covers a head, or hair, or even the face. The hijab is something else altogether.
A man in a hijab

Just over a week ago I was engaged in a discussion about female sexual harassment. My argument was that harassment – as well as many sexual crimes – was not a function of natural seduction, rather a pathological expression of power (in a way most expressions of power are pathological.)The hijab thus cannot function to protect women from the violence of men’s sexuality. The hijab was most likely incepted as an expression of men’s power over women. To sum up my argument I tweeted: “A world in which women rule, men shall wear the veil.” And to drive the point home I put on my daughter’s abaya, took a picture of myself, and used it as my profile picture on Twitter and Facebook. My intention was to remind us that the hijab is originally an expression of power, and had females ruled, things may have been different.

The comments I got were revealing. Some women and men interpreted it as a stance of solidarity with women. Some thought I was objecting to the very idea of hijab. Some even flirted. There were also angry comments. It was as if I was posing nude in Times Square. I tend to think that what angered some is that I, for a fraction of a second, may have blurred the gender differences between men and women. I may have reminded men and women of the dominance one has over the other. Both are disconcerting. Maybe that is why in some religious traditions it is sinful for a man to dress as a woman, or for a woman to dress as a man. That is, it is sinful to blur the constructed gender differences.

A brief history of the hijab

In the beginning the hijab was mainly about class. Women of upper classes had to wear it so as to be distinguished from lower classes. She belonged – in a literal sense – to the noble class and the hijab branded her. By being branded as such she was also protected. Men would tread carefully before they harassed a woman who belonged to an upper class. To keep the class function of the hijab laws prohibited it on women of lower classes. If such women wore it, they were punished. In some traditions the veil explicitly signified the woman’s belonging to a husband. In others it signified the authority of the male. And there were those who blamed Eve for bringing men out of heaven, and thus demanded that a woman hide her allure. So when Muslims came into the scene they already had a very rich reservoir of meanings associated with the hijab which they incorporated with some modifications. Muslim women wore the hijab to show that they belonged to the class of new believers. In the early years of Islam, this protected women. A woman also wore the hijab to preserve her beauty for her husband who owned her and her seductive capacity. And hijab was not a universal practice nor was it to diminish seduction in public space. Slave women – who were many – were not obliged to wear a hijab. They could even walk in the streets with their breasts out. Hijab was mainly a class issue amongst Muslims, in the same way it was with previous communities.
Political and pragmatic hijabs

The historic meanings of the hijab dominated till the late 19th and early 20th centuries when some colonizers decided that it was their duty to free women of their colonies. One of those was Lord Cromer who considered the hijab as an epitome of women’s oppression in Egypt. Interestingly, back in England Cromer was a part of “The Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League” which was worked to stop women from full voting rights. Cromer practically ruled Egypt from 1878-1907, thus the discourse generated by his opinions and positions vis-à-vis the hijab greatly impacted the way many Westerners and Muslims/Arabs viewed the hijab. He contributed to the birth of the view that the hijab was a symbol of social oppression and backwardness. In return, local Egyptians – and then other Muslims – reconstructed the hijab an emblem of identity and a sign of resistance. The hijab transformed to a cultural identity for communities whose sense of self was lost due to the violent disruption of colonialism. It also became a way to assert rejection of the colonizer. The hijab developed related meanings when some Muslim elites and rulers adopted the view that the hijab was a sign of backwardness and fought it in their own countries. In addition to its new meanings for identity and resistance, now it also broke away from its class origins. Instead of being a dress for higher classes and imposed by higher classes, it now became a dress for the common people, and sign of social modesty. Furthermore a new meaning was created when Islamic parties were set up as the hijab would become a sign of belonging to the party, and the wide presence of the hijab would be an indication of a party’s communal authority. The most recent important development in the story of the hijab was when France banned its use in public places. It did not add new meanings to those that had already existed in the past one hundred years, but it deepened old ones.

The hijab also developed more mundane pragmatic meanings. Power and politics are not in the top of mind of many women who wear the hijab. Most women are not even aware of its original and new social/political meanings. Some women wear it because, according to them, it protected them from harassment. Others said because it reduced the need to purchase varieties of clothes and to compete with other women on fashion. There are those who said it gave them better marriage opportunities. Men, they say, might like to flirt with pretty unveiled women, but when it comes to building a family they prefer women who are modest and compliant. Other women say they wear it because God commanded them to.
Forward to the past

In the beginning there were humans. They had different physical features. That difference generated different expectations. Some humans were able to bring children to this world; a very important asset for survival. Other humans had stronger bodies and were better in fetching food. Through a social process, which no one knows anything about, humans decided to become male and female. Males provided food and protection. Females provided children. Then, as society developed and became more sophisticated another difference was created. Females had to belong to man and to act in certain ways. Males had to belong to other males but also act in ways different to female and to other males as well. Now we had man and woman; we had gender. Expectations were set. Roles were fixed. Characteristics were divided according to male and female. And borders between both were erected. Individuals who sought to breakdown that barrier – such as homosexuals – were ostracized.

It may not be possible in any near future to go forward to our previous pristine state of nature, where gender did not exist. But it is important every now and then to be reminded that our current state is in no way natural, nor healthy. It is vital that we cross the constructed boundaries between men and women. There are many ways of doing that in Western and Eastern communities. A man wearing the hijab is one of them.

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Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1

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US ship ‘to destroy Syria chemicals’

November 30th, 2013 Comments off

The organisation charged with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons confirms some will be “neutralised” aboard a US Navy ship.
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